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photo: Shaked Buchbout
photo: zoo archive
photo: Shai Ben Ami
photo: zoo archive
Interesting to Note:
The meerkat belongs to the small family of mongoose species and therefore is related to the mongooses found in Israel.
The pups are born after a gestation period of 11 weeks. Initially they are helpless and need the constant care of their mother, but soon they begin to wander further from the nest where they were born and at eight weeks they are weaned. However, they still are not skilled hunters and all the individuals in the group help them find and capture food. Group members also help the pups by protecting them from predators. Meerkats are known for their behavior when guarding which involves climbing to a high lookout point, standing on two legs and scanning the environment to detect predators. Preservation is not just about the pups, but the group as a whole, and when a predator is detected, the lookout produces a call that causes the rest of the group to flee to their holes. Although once considered altruistic behavior, where an individual endangers himself to protect others, studies have shown that in fact the lookout will guard the group only when he is not hungry and does not have to search for food. It turns out that the lookout is actually in the best position to be able to reach safety. In fact, so confident is the guard at his post, that individuals often compete among themselves with regard to who will be the lookout.
Meerkats were made famous by "Timon" the meerkat character in the Disney movie "The Lion King".
Watch the episode below of the zoo's video journal to learn more about the meerkats.
Scientific Name: Suricata Suricatta
Global Conservation Status: Least Concern (LC) - domesticated
In Israel: -
At the Zoo: Breeding group in the “Underground World” Exhibit
In the Bible:
Habitat and Distribution: Arid regions of desert and grassland prairie in the southern regions of Africa.
Body Structure: length 55 - 75 cm including the tail; weight 0.5 to 2.5 kg
Diet: Carnivore – eats mainly small invertebrates (insects, scorpions, spiders, etc.), small mammals, birds and reptiles, or eggs. Some plant material is sometimes consumed.
Social Structure: family groups consisting of typically up to 30 individuals. Each group consists of 1-3 breeding pairs and those not breeding help raise the offspring of the group.
Activity cycle: diurnal
Threats in the wild: